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Tyler O’Neill hit two home runs for the Red Sox in their four-game series in Seattle to open the 2024 season. Lindsey Wasson/Associated Press

The Boston Red Sox arrived in Oakland on Monday with a 2-2 record after four games.

The season is barely underway, with four games representing only 2.5% of a Major League Baseball season. Any judgments at this point are being made with negligible data. But what’s the point of being a baseball fan if you can’t make snap judgments? With that in mind, here are a few overreactions to the new season for the Red Sox:

The starting rotation is better than expected: Call it the Andrew Bailey Effect, or call it a staff changing with the times, but Red Sox starting pitchers have throttled back on their fastball usage and are featuring a variety of breaking pitches intended to keep hitters off balance. It worked against an aggressive Seattle Mariners lineup over the weekend, with Boston’s four starters giving up just four earned runs with one walk and 27 strikeouts over 22 innings.

Sweepers, those big looping breaking balls with lots of horizontal movement, have become all the rage in the big leagues. Red Sox starters haven’t just jumped in on the sweeper craze, they’ve experimented with new grips and new deliveries intended to expand their arsenals. It’s still early. Very early. But this kind of success could completely change the narrative of the 2024 season.

Rule 5 guys rule: The Rule 5 Draft is a bit of a dumpster dive for teams, and it’s always rewarding to get results from a player you grabbed from another organization. On Sunday, Garrett Whitlock got the win and Justin Slaten got the save. Both were acquired via the Rule 5 Draft (Slaten came to Boston in a trade immediately after he was chosen in the Rule 5 draft).

Tyler O’Neill is running it back to 2021: Three years ago, O’Neill finished eighth in the National League MVP voting. He hit 34 home runs, posted a .912 OPS, and won his second consecutive Gold Glove. Injuries limited him to fewer than 100 games each of the past two seasons. He’s healthy to start this season, and he’s locked in. He homered on Opening Day for the fifth straight year, setting a new MLB record. He hit another one on Sunday as the Sox salvaged a split with the Mariners.


With Trevor Story struggling early, O’Neill has been Boston’s best right-handed hitter. It’s proving to be one of President of Baseball Operations Craig Breslow’s best first-year deals.

It’s going to be a year of worrying about the closer: Kenley Jansen missed most of spring training with back tightness. He also missed Saturday’s game as the Red Sox bullpen collapsed without a closer in the 10th inning. “You go to bed, you wake up in the morning and you have a bad back,” Jansen told reporters after the game.

Jansen could’ve been speaking for all of us. But most of us don’t have to pitch the ninth for a big-league team. Good teams need reliable closers, and closers must be available to be reliable.

Brennan Bernardino should be with Boston: He was one of the best relievers on the team last year, ranking second in appearances and third in ERA. Yet he was in Lancaster, Pennsylvania, with the WooSox when Joely Rodriguez blew the save in the 10th on Saturday night. Keeping just one lefty, and choosing Rodriguez to be that lefty, cost the Sox a game they should’ve won.

Trevor Story is going to be fine: He got off to a rough start at the plate, but Story has already proven his worth as a defender. Again. Last year he played only 43 games after elbow surgery but amassed eight defensive runs saved according to FanGraphs. That was fourth-best among American League shortstops. He’ll hit as he gets his timing back. His .380 batting average in spring training with three homers and a team-leading 14 RBI was a reminder that he can be an impact bat in the middle of the lineup. He singled in each of his last two at-bats Sunday, a sign that his timing is coming around.

Story, and the rest of the Red Sox, will have plenty of ups and downs in the season ahead. We’re just four games into the marathon, but the team is showing early signs that it might be fun to watch this summer. We’ll see if fun equals wins.

It’s a little too early to make that call.

Tom Caron is a studio host for the Red Sox broadcast on NESN. His column appears in the Portland Press Herald on Tuesdays.

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